The ongoing digital revolution, fueled by rapid advancements in technology, has brought about unprecedented opportunities for people to connect and share information. However, this has also led to the emergence of new threats, particularly in the form of misinformation and disinformation.1 With the ease and speed of information dissemination, false or misleading information can quickly spread to large audiences and create serious social and political consequences. From fake news to deep fakes as well as propaganda, the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation is increasingly challenging to address. It is crucial for individuals, organizations, and governments to be aware of these threats and take proactive measures to combat them by promoting media literacy and fact-checking while holding accountable those who spread deliberate falsehoods. We must insist that citizens’ access to the truth is a fundamental human right, and it should be our duty to wage a war against disinformation that violates that right while causing irreparable damage to security and peace in our societies.
The digital transformation has implications for the private as well as public sectors, as it has profound impacts on products and services throughout the economy worldwide. Just as information and data represent power today, disinformation and misuse of data are also a major threat to the health and safety of public life. World Economic Forum reports2 have repeatedly underlined the risks emanating from digital misinformation. Such risks bring along with them the risk of hybrid warfare and power competition between states in the long run. The classic propaganda wars have transformed into much subtler forms of information warfare, the dynamics of which are difficult to understand for average citizens. This reality has a particularly destructive impact in times of global events, during which accessing timely and accurate information can be a vital matter for society. Individuals must be armed with the knowledge and capabilities to save themselves from the enormous harm that disinformation can cause. In that sense, our commitment to the truth must be unshakable, and our struggle must sustain itself in the long run through our common efforts. We must all say, “long live the truth.”
Influencing Elections and Spreading Hate
During the U.S. presidential elections in 2016, the issue of misinformation and disinformation on social media became an important topic for debate.3 Various reports and studies found that fake news stories and propaganda were being shared widely on social media platforms, often with the intent of influencing public opinion and swaying the election in favor of a particular candidate. These false narratives ranged from completely fabricated stories to misleading headlines and selectively edited videos. Paid ad campaigns and social media algorithms, which prioritize engagement over accuracy, further amplified the reach of these false narratives. The scale of this problem became apparent when it was revealed that bad actors had created fake social media accounts and groups to spread misinformation and sow discord among the American electorate. This was a stark example of the dangers of misinformation and political influence campaigns, with broad implications for election security and national sovereignty.
This phenomenon transpired in several other elections throughout the world. During the debates on the Brexit referendum and the critically important general elections in a few European countries, the treacherously effective use of disinformation and fake news became a hotly debated issue. The problem became more acute and apparent with the rise of the extreme right political discourse and parties that were finding supporters and spreading their message online. Misinformation and disinformation operations played a significant role by amplifying hate speech, strengthening antirefugee rhetoric, and spreading Islamophobic as well as anti-Semitic content. Stereotypes and false claims about foreigners became some of the best propaganda tools of xenophobic political parties and opportunist politicians.
Misinformation and disinformation operations played a significant role by amplifying hate speech, strengthening anti-refugee rhetoric, and spreading Islamophobic as well as anti-Semitic content
Many countries were caught unawares, and they did not take the dangers of misinformation and disinformation seriously. It took a while for most to recognize and come to terms with the threats against sociological texture and social peace. However, the political campaign activities and elections have shown the ugly side of things in terms of communication and information technologies. It was not simply influencing the behavior of voters like in the 2016 elections in the U.S., but this phenomenon had a deeply destructive and destabilizing effect on the democratic institutions and processes. It undermines faith in the institutions, and people are more easily manipulated and swayed by fringe opinions.
Once the realization of these facts became more commonplace, a more honest conversation acknowledging the detrimental effects of social media and the internet has begun.4 Moreover, the fact that misinformation and disinformation could be utilized by foreign actors made this a national security matter.5 Unfortunately, however, no genuine cooperation effort on election and information security emerged at the regional and global levels. Every country ended up taking temporary and haphazard measures6 to secure internal stability and protect electoral processes. It must be clear that we need a much more expansive and comprehensive debate about misinformation and disinformation’s overall negative impact on the political process, democratic institutions, and polarization…
Read more on Insight Turkey: Truth Is a Human Right: Türkiye’s Stance on the Fight against Disinformation